History of Department VI

Today, Department VI Spatial and Environmental Sciences combines a broad spectrum of subjects in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

The history of Department VI began with the founding of the University of Trier in 1970. The department’s development history outlined here, provides a contribution to the University of Trier’s 50th anniversary and is intended as an appreciation of the University and the ongoing development efforts for Department VI.

Geography 1970 - 1977: Teaching and Research for School and Teacher Training

When the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern was founded in 1970, the teaching unit Geography was established with the three departments Physical Geography, Cultural Geography and Didactics of Geography. In 1973, the subject Economic and Social Geography and the two departments of Geology and Aerial Photography/Remote Sensing, were established. Already in the 1970s, these geographic subjects and the two associated departments, with their then only educational focus on teacher training and master's degrees, which at that time were still integrated into Department III, had quite a considerable status at the University of Trier, with a share of 7-8% of the students.

In context of the research activities of the subject Physical Geography, the scientific institution research unit on Soil Erosion of the University of Trier (Mertesdorfer Lorenzberg) was established in 1972 under Gerold Richter in the Ruwer Valley, with financial support of the German Research Foundation. Over a period of 20 years, erosion measurements were carried out under natural conditions on 13 plots in a vineyard area. This facility gave a significant boost to soil erosion research in the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer wine-growing regions and produced one of the longest erosion measurement series in Europe up to that time.

1977 - 1990 Reorientation from teacher training to diploma courses

At the end of the seventies - as a reaction to a deteriorating job market for teachers - the range of studies in the field of diploma education was extended. With the new establishment of the subject of tourism geography, the diploma course in applied geography with a focus on tourism geography (AGF) was established. Complementary to this, diploma education with a stronger geographical/geoscientific orientation was established in 1980 through the diploma course Applied Physical Geography (APG). This new scientific and methodological conception of an integrated geographic/geoscientific course of study, which focused on the increasingly urgent environmental problems, led to an expansion of geoscientific subjects (geobotany, soil science and cartography) at the beginning of the 1980s. At the same time, environmental research moved more and more into the center of teaching and research activities. Due to this importance, the spectrum of geoscientific subjects was supplemented in 1982 by the subjects Hydrology and Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry (later redesignated as Analytical and Ecological Chemistry). In 1988, the subject Climatology (today: Environmental Meteorology) was established. Thus, the teaching and research area of physical geography with its environmental science competencies had created a unique selling point compared to similarly oriented courses of study at other university locations.

1990 - until today: Foundation of the Department VI - Spatial and Environmental Sciences

The continuing increase in the number of students, as well as the steady expansion of the geographical and geoscientific subjects, led to the division of Department III in 1990. The scientifically interlinked geographical and geoscientific subjects were merged into a separate functional unit in the newly founded Department VI Geography/Geosciences, at the beginning of the winter semester 1989/90. In 1992, the Department VI received the two new subjects Applied Geography/Spatial Development and Quantitative Methods/Geomathematics. In 1993, the existing Department of Aerial Photography/Remote Sensing was transformed into the independent subject of Remote Sensing in FB VI.

In the course of the integration of the geoscientific subjects, the course of Applied Environmental Sciences (AUW) was introduced in the winter semester 1996/97 as a further major in the diploma course. With the transfer of the subject Biogeography and the Environmental Specimen Bank as a federal research institution from the University of the Saarland to the University of Trier, the range of geoscientific subjects was expanded to include bioscientific competencies, which resulted in the opening of the biogeoscientific course Applied Biogeography in the winter semester 2001/2002. In close cooperation with the Department of Biogeography, the endowed professorship Ecotoxicology/Toxicology was established in 2000, which was transferred into an endowed professorship in 2008. Within the framework of the Higher Education Pact, a professorship in Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics was established and filled in 2010. To support the teacher training in biology offered since 2009, the subject Biology and its Didactics was established in 2010.

The visions of the founding fathers of the Geography teaching unit led to a paradigm shift from pure teacher training to a diverse geography/geoscience professional field by the early 1990s and continues to be consistently pursued. This differentiation of the range of subjects has proven to be a successful model for the Trier location to this day.

With about 1,720 students enrolled in the winter semester 2008/09 (= 11.7% of the total number of students) and about 1,660 students in the winter semester 2009/2010 (= 11.4%), eight geographically and eleven geo-bioscientifically oriented subjects (with a total of 21 professors and more than 50 employees), as well as a high degree differentiation through eleven degree programs after the conversion of the course offerings to the tiered Bachelor's and Master's degree programs in the winter semester 2007/2008, Department VI is one of the largest geographically/geoscientifically oriented departments / university locations in Germany. The high number of doctorates shows the special commitment to the promotion of young researchers. The performance record of the department with the third highest funding at the University of Trier can be considered extremely positive.

The diverse and specific subject competencies combined with intensive cooperation between the individual subjects ensure a high degree of interdisciplinarity in research and teaching, thus enabling practice- and research-oriented teaching. Thus, the Department VI has created a unique position for itself as a center of interdisciplinary environmental research at the interface of man-environment relations in Rhineland-Palatinate and beyond the borders of the state.

The basic and applied research of Department VI is oriented towards answering urgent questions that arise in the face of anthropogenically caused, drastic changes in the natural foundations of life and the resulting changes in the framework conditions of social development. The humanities, environmental and information science oriented research groups of Department VI thus complement the predominantly humanities and cultural science oriented profile of the University of Trier in an outstanding manner.

In 2012, Department VI changed its former name "Geography/Geosciences" to "Spatial and Environmental Sciences" to better reflect the content potential and development concepts in the field of environmental research on human-environment interaction.


The performance of the Department VI is directly related to the commitment of all employees, from the group of university professors to the non-scientific employees, the students and the student council of the Department VI. Many thanks and appreciation to everyone involved.